Dissension at top in CEA may impair decision-making

Dissension at top in CEA may impair decision-making

New Delhi: India’s apex power sector planning body, the Central Electricity Authority (CEA), already struggling with a staff crunch, is now grappling with dissension at the top. One of CEA’s four serving members has gone on leave to protest a collegue’s elevation to the post of officiating chairman.

V. Ramakrishna, CEA member overseeing power systems, proceeded on two months’ leave after Gurdial Singh, member (hydro), was named the officiating chairman, according to people familiar with the development.

Two of the six CEA member posts—for planning and thermal power—are already vacant and Ramakrishna’s move may affect decision-making at the authority, which has the mandate of advising the government on issues related to the power sector.

It is currently playing a vital role in the Union government’s ultra-mega power project initiative, to promote power plants of the order of 4,000MW and is the nodal agency for selecting the sites of such projects.

CEA is headed by a chairman and has six members in charge of portfolios such as planning, thermal, hydro, power systems, grid operations and distribution, and economic and commercial issues. Ramakrishna has also made his representation to the power ministry, the administrative ministry for CEA.

“I have assumed the charge of chairman from 3 March for six months until the new incumbent comes in. It is his (Ramakrishna) prerogative to take leave. He is retiring by May-end and has put in his application for leave for two months. I have been senior to Ramakrishna all along and became chief engineer eight months before him," Singh said.

Singh was given the additional charge of chairman after Rakesh Nath retired. Nath has now joined as a member in the Appellate Tribunal of Electricity.

Ramakrishna termed his going on leave and protesting against Singh’s elevation as “two separate issues".

He declined to comment on the reason for his protest, saying: “This is a matter between me and the ministry."

The power sector is struggling to meet its targets. The country expects to add 62,000MW to its current power generation capacity of 153,000MW by 2012. Progress so far has been limited, with only 9,300MW of generation capacity added in 2007-08 against a target of 12,000MW. Only 3,500MW was added against a target of 11,000MW in 2008-09. Power sector analysts say CEA’s role as a technical think tank for policymaking has often been subverted for political objectives.

Union power minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said: “He (Ramakrishna) is retiring in one-and-a-half months, so how can we give him this position? That is the reason why we have given this to the other person."

CEA is already facing a staff shortage that has affected its day-to-day functioning. CEA has an overall employee strength of around 1,100. Of CEA’s 568 sanctioned technical positions, some 170 positions are lying vacant, and the situation is expected to only worsen when more people retire. The average age of employees at CEA is 45.